This ambitious animated sci-fi tale from the director of Fritz the Cat (1972) was released the same year as Star Wars, and both films dealt with a fairy-tale battle between good and evil.
But whereas the Lucas epic was set in a galaxy far, far away, Ralph Bakshi grounded this odd cartoon in Earth’s far-flung future where nuclear holocaust has left the world in the hands (and claws) of elves, fairies, wizards and mutants, and science and technology have been outlawed due to the misery and suffering they have wrought.
Out of this messy miasma come twin wizards – the good Avatar and the evil Blackwolf – who of course duke it out for survival. Though Avatar prevails, Black Wolf vows revenge, igniting a struggle that lasts thousands of years.
Eventually, Black Wolf and his army of mutants harness the outlawed ancient technology, creating a war machine that brings back the horror of mass death and destruction. He also creates a “dream machine” that renders his armies invincible by casting images of the 20th century Nazi horror – Hitler, the Wehrmacht and swastikas – in the minds of his enemies.
Only by destroying the dream machine can Avatar and his followers hope to prevent the forces of evil from taking over the world.
Avatar, old and tired, sets off with a nubile fairy princess, a trusted aide, and a captured mutant assassin for a final fraternal confrontation. The last battle pits good against evil in a world that is at once unrecognisably alien and frighteningly familiar.
Uncertain whether it wants to appeal to children, grown-ups or both – as with The Lion King its anti-fascist undertones will be lost on the kids – it’s ultimately something of a dull affair.